Hands up who never wants to watch a livestreamed entertainment event? EVER. AGAIN.
Yes, yes, yes, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic when we were all cooped up in our homes, livestreamed events were spun as performers pivoting and keeping us all connected.
Really, they were crud.
I'm glad the artists involved might have been kept financially afloat performing in livestreamed events during the pandemic, but if I'm going to watch something on the small screen, I'll go for another Bryce blow-up on MAFS every time before some hard-to-see, hard-to-hear local theatre production beamed in from whoop whoop. Seriously, livestreaming just emphasised how disconnected we were. And, come on, we had television.
So it was good news last week when the ACT Government announced that from 9am on Wednesday, Canberra theatres, cinemas and "large indoor performance venues" will be allowed to - in coronvirus-era parlance - "sell seated tickets at 100 per capacity".
In other words, fill up. Put a bum on every seat. Full house. Sold out. Have a proper live audience.
But, and there's always a but, the venues need to have a COVID Safety Plan endorsed by the ACT Chief Health Officer. Otherwise they have to stay at 75 per cent capacity. And the audiences need to be seated in forward-facing, fixed and tiered seating.
Good luck with keeping the audience seated when The Wiggles hit the Canberra Theatre Centre next weekend. Have you ever tried to stop a three-year-old from dancing to Anthony, Emma, Wags, Dorothy et al? Let 'em go, I say. (The theatre's covid plan does include ushers and extra security to keep people in their seats and encourages the performers to ask the audience to do the right thing.)
And no one will be pogo-ing in a moshpit any time soon. Live music venues are still being treated differently and there can still only be one person per two square metres in those venues.
The venues can apply for an exemption to operate at 75 per cent capacity - which apparently equates to three people every four square metres. * Insert emoji crazy face*
But our creep back to normality is a great thing.
It's fitting that the first performance to potentially have a full house post-covid in The Playhouse will be a one-man show by that great man of theatre, John Bell.
The founder of the Bell Shakespeare Company will be performing his first Canberra show at 7pm on Wednesday, 10 hours after the new capacity changes come in. The Canberra Theatre Centre has an endorsed covid plan so is good to go and new seats were released for the performance. Fingers crossed Bell's show does sell out. One can only imagine the emotions felt by Canberra Theatre staff on Wednesday night as they hopefully welcome back a full-capacity crowd.
And especially the Canberra Theatre Centre director Alex Budd, who officially took on the role from February 3, 2020. Just over a month later, venues were shut and Canberra was in lockdown. A life-long theatre participant, Budd knows what a full house in the 1241-seat Canberra Theatre feels like and sounds like and looks like. But he's yet to see it as the director. He's looking forward to it. There's nothing like a full house, a shared experience with mostly strangers.
We'd love people to stand up or kids to dance along to The Wiggles, but just for this interim period, sitting down is the way to goCanberra Theatre Centre director Alex Budd
"You see all of your fellow theatregoers - right to the corner of the very back row - in the same moment as you, and you don't know any of them, other than perhaps the person you're sitting next to, but everybody is there together and that's really special," he said.
Alex Budd says he understands that the full theatre experience is still not here - when we can sing and dance with abandon and, heavens to betsy, give a standing ovation.
"Look, we do our very best," Budd said.
"It's been a bit the same with some of the contemporary music bands we've had in over the last few months. Everybody wants to do the right thing but so many people haven't been out to an event like The Wiggles or a band for 12 months. Old habits are very hard to break, including standing up to your favourite music.
"We have extra security and we have lots of ushers doing their very best but the end of the day it's the performers we need on our side, they're the best people to keep an audience behaving in a covid-safe manner. If a band encourages an audience to get up and sing, that's very hard. That's part of our covid-safe plan, engaging with the performers to ensure we do it by the rules.
"A full house is there and everyone gets to go because people do the right thing. We'd love people to stand up or kids to dance along to The Wiggles, but just for this interim period, sitting down is the way to go."
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